Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Yesterday, I visited Hamawaki to check if there's anything interesting or not. I unexpectedly met Furuso-san along the way, and she told me that a few days ago there was a Long-billed Plover at the river, but the bird has already gone. She also showed me photos of a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus japonensis) that seems to be staying in the area since autumn. I've seen the bird several times when I was going to work but never managed to photograph it. There was 4 Chinese Spot-billed Ducks resting at the river along with another Vega Gull. I checked the river mouth and found nothing but a flock of gulls including Black-tailed, Vega and 'taimyrensis' Gulls. There was a female domesticated Mallard staying at the port as well. I saw an old lady bringing some food for it and the cats that were staying nearby.
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus japonensis)

I thought there wouldn't be anything else interesting, so I began to ride my bicycle back to my dorm. Then I thought, maybe I should at least try to look for the Peregrine Falcon because it should be staying somewhere in this area. I searched through the top of the buildings that it usually perched, but failed to find it. As I was riding my bicycle back along the street, I suddenly spotted a large greyish spot on the top of a mansion above the busy street. I knew exactly right then that it was the Peregrine Falcon that I was searching for. Unfortunately, the bird was way too high up on the building and it was also facing against the wall, so I could only get photos of its backside. It seemed to be very relaxed and kept preening from the time that I found it until the sun began to set. It didn't seem to be hungry or eager to hunt, or even to move, at all. Indeed, it was as if it just had a nice full meal and was getting ready to go to sleep.

Japanese people call Peregrine Falcon 'Hayabusa' which simply means 'falcon'. I personally think that it is one of the coolest Japanese names for birds. The sound of the name fits well to the appearance of this iconic bird of prey. Most Peregrine Falcons in Japan are of the resident race F.p.japonensis, but I believe that the Siberian Peregrine Falcon or the subspecies F.p.calidus also winters in Japan as well. These 2 subspecies are very similar and I didn't know how to distinguish each of them. So I consulted a raptor expert and got a few useful notes about how to distinguish the two. F.p.calidus normally has thinner moustache than F.p.japonensis (except female birds), with pure white breast unlike F.p.japonensis that usually has pale pinkish wash. The spots and barring patterns on the underparts are also different. F.p.japonensis has much more extensive barring starting from lower breast, while F.p.calidus has more restricted area of barring, mostly at the thighs. Judging from all these key features, the bird that I found here seems to be an F.p.japonensis, a resident and nominate race of Japan.


Russell said...

Thank you. Great info about the two races found in Japan. I'll have to look more closely next time I see one. Nice photos too. Typical of their behaviour.

Phil said...

Good shots of the distant falcon Ayuwat. Do the Peregrines breed on buildings like that in Japan as they do now in Britain where because there are now so many pairs they have used up all the natural habitat sites.

Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok said...

Thanks a lot Russell and Phil! Yes, they do breed on buildings. I've never seen one in Beppu though, but I've seen photos of them elsewhere. In Niigata, where Russell lives, there's also a pair nesting on the prefectural office. You can see more in his post here